My best friend of eight years and I are drifting apart. That’s bad enough, but this is worse: She is friends with all of the same people that I’m friends with. I feel like I’m getting shut out. I never saw it before, but she is the person everyone wants to hang out with, not me. I guess I was lucky because she always used to invite me along. What can I do so that I don’t lose everyone?
Try to stop worrying that you are losing everyone. Worrying is a distraction from the real work of loving yourself and your friends through this difficult situation. The need to belong is deeply ingrained in every human being. Historically, this sensibility saved us from expulsion from the tribe, family or society that made physical survival easier. The need to belong has also imbued us with a tendency to overreact to signs of potentially not belonging. And that means we sometimes flinch at the slightest shift in people’s attitude toward us. I know I have done this; I bet you have, too.
Try this reflection exercise: Sit quietly and invite images of times with friends to play across your mind. Do you see yourself saying or doing something that pushes friends away? In day-to-day living it’s easy to ignore or dismiss subtle signs of a friend’s discomfort or weakening patience. But noticing their responses to your words or behavior may help you to understand their pullback. Please note that I am suggesting you notice your behavior. Don’t criticize or blame yourself. If you start cringing at things you said or did, stop. Forgive yourself, and when the timing is right, apologize to your friends. Doing so may not stop these relationships from going sideways, but you will grow in self-confidence, and that is worthwhile.
Of course, the distancing may have nothing to do with you. Sometimes relationships run their course. We can do nothing about their demise. The good news is that loss leads to new life. You may feel pain now, but it will subside. Yes, it will. Believe me. In the meantime, reach out to new people and develop fresh friendships. Try not to compare these fledgling relationships with your friend group. Instead, enjoy each person as he or she is.
What do you think it means to be truly happy with your life? And what do you do if you are just unhappy?
True happiness is the art of accepting my life and my limitations while also embracing my capacities for spiritual growth, passion, service, play, joy, personal power, limitlessness and creation. In other words, happiness is rooted at the intersection of being fully human and becoming divine. It is not about materials things, but it is about substance. What we call happiness is more often a spike in pleasant emotions. Pleasure, contentment or satisfaction (all versions of “happy”) can be inspired by discovering greater meaning for our lives or from being recognized and valued. Personality also contributes to our experience of happiness. It is easier for an idealist, optimist or realist to be happy than for a pessimist or cynic.
Personal strength and interpretations of loyalty are factors, too. A person who submits to a lifestyle that does not fit but draws the approval of others is less happy than someone who lives from the core of who they are but lacks the approval of others. If you are unhappy, find what brings you fully alive and give yourself to it. Don’t look to status symbols. Look to the arts, social justice or other vital ways of contributing to the world. A psychotherapist or spiritual director can help you shed unhappiness and find the path back to joy.